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Gilder and Wealth; Why Reagan Agreed

Scroll to the 6 minute ant 50 second mark to hear President Reagan quote George Gilder.


George Gilder's bestselling economics book, Wealth and Poverty, came out in early 1981. The President was given a copy by Sen. Bob Dole and read it while convalescing from the Hinckley assassination attempt. It is not such a surprise then that President Reagan over his eight year tenure quoted George Gilder more than any other living author.

It was our idea at Discovery Institute that the economic disputes of today have a resonance with the late Carter years, though circumstances are different in crucial ways. (If anything, we are worse off now than under Carter.) Harry Crocker, Jr., editor at Regnery press, was excited at the suggestion that Wealth and Poverty should be re-published for a new generation, and so it is that the pub date is set for August 20, with a handsome new edition, including a new prologue and epilogue by George. There is to be a Wealth and Poverty sequel published by Regnery this winter, Knowledge and Power, but, meanwhile, if you haven't read W&P, this is your chance. Limited excerpts already are running in National Review and The American Spectator. Fox is running an opinion piece about W&P by Steve Forbes, and Larry Kudlow and Lou Dobbs are planning to have George on their broadcasts in the next few days.

If you think that capitalism deserves a defense on its morality, as well as its efficiency, Wealth and Poverty does the job.

Over the years lot of young people have been influenced by the book, including Paul Ryan. His staff says that he assigned it to new Congressional aides who wanted to know how he thought. (He is not the Ayn Randian people in the liberal media have made out. Indeed, Rand's last public speech was a denunciation of Gilder and an attack on Wealth and Poverty.)

Human Events just described how Ronald Reagan used Wealth and Poverty to defend the entrepreneurs of his day.

W & P jpgOne of Gilder's other great points that resonates today is that high tax liberals don't really threaten rich people; they make life hard for those aspiring to become rich. Those are the upward mobile businessmen, inventors, entrepreneurs and investors who create most of the new jobs. People who work on commissions or cash in investments to start up a company or to retire are particularly in danger. From time immemorial, the already-rich and the high tax crowd have reserved their true scorn for those folks. It's true again today. If you don't think so, look at the collective tax burden that will fall on the aspiring businessmen--income tax increases, capital gains taxes, inheritance tax (to at lest 35 per cent), Obamacare tax surcharges, Dodd-Frank regulations, etc. The already rich have lawyers and accountants to shield them from growing tax and regulatory burdens, and these actually represent a competitive advantage over business newcomers who lack such resources. Interestingly, the Republicans actually propose to repeal many such tax shelters for the rich in order to lower overall tax rates. Perhaps that is one reason you see the large attendance at $36,000 a plate dinners for Mr. Obama in New York and Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Who do you think can afford such affairs?

On the other hand, you see a leap in moderate sized contributions going to Romney this year, outpacing the incumbent, Obama at this point. Fortunately, there are vastly more middle and upper middle class people than the truly rich. In 2008 about 80 percent of the high income zip codes went for Obama. It won't be as strong this year, but he'll continue to get huge support there. The idea that Obama wants to correct our deficit condition by getting the rich to "pay their full share" has become one of the all-time worst political canards.

You can email brucechapman@discovery.org

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